Experience Australia’s unforgettable waterfalls and waterholes, formed over millions of years.
By Leah Dobihal
Australia is a country of ancient landscapes. Beyond the rivers, rocks and red dirt plains you’ll find waterfalls and waterholes waiting to be explored. From crashing cascades to tranquil rock pools, here are the best waterfalls and waterholes to visit in Australia.
Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park
In South Australia, a six-hour drive south of Adelaide brings you to Piccaninnie Ponds Conservation Park, which has such clear waters that it is not only a popular spot for swimming, but scuba diving, too. Divers have discovered a massive underwater cave due to the excellent visibility, which can be up to 30 metres (98 feet) on a good day. Swimmers can grab a snorkel and turn a quick dip into a serene float, observing the underwater world below.
Deep Creek Conservation Park
If you’re looking for a challenge, set your sights on Deep Creek Conservation Park on South Australia’s stunning Fleurieu Peninsula, located a 1.5-hour drive from Adelaide. Home to ocean views, waterfalls and a permanent waterhole, the 3.5-hour return Deep Creek Waterfall hike descends into the valley through forested gullies. Although the waterfall is at its best during the winter months (June to August), you can take a dip in the waterhole all year round.
Kosciuszko National Park
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) might be small, but it still offers up incredible waterhole and waterfall experiences. Book a waterhole tour with Blue Skies Adventure Tours to embark on an expedition into the northern tip of Kosciuszko National Park, just over three hours from Canberra. Cross gentle rivers, explore hidden caves and wind past waterholes and waterfalls within the woodland.
Reserve an entire afternoon for Gibraltar Falls, located less than an hour from Canberra within Namadgi National Park. The falls have a nearby picnic area complete with barbecues. Take the easy 20-minute walk from the Gibraltar Falls carpark to watch the white water spill over the stacked rocks. The rocks down to the falls can be slippery, so be sure to stay behind the barriers as you take in the view.
From the fascinating Fraser Island to the dense rainforests of the Daintree, Queensland is a haven for secret and secluded spots. One of the state’s most iconic waterholes are the Champagne Pools of Fraser Island, located 15 kilometres (9 miles) off of the Queensland coast. Shallow, sandy pools have been created by the ocean’s natural rock formations, allowing the crashing waves to create Champagne-like fizz during high tide.
In Tropical North Queensland, it doesn’t take long to find a picturesque waterfall. Josephine Falls is popular with Instagrammers, and for good reason. This granite boulder formation near Cairns is home to waters that are an unusual shade of turquoise. It's a tiered cascade waterfall, meaning swimmers can gently slip and slide their way over smooth rock faces from pool to pool. There are restricted swimming areas so be sure to abide by the safety signs.
Millaa Millaa Falls
Located in the Tablelands region, 45 minutes outside of Cairns, Millaa Millaa Falls are surrounded by vibrant green rainforest and pour perfectly into the pristine waterhole below. The falls are so beautiful that they’ve even been used as the backdrop for advertisements and music videos. If you’re lucky, you could also spot an elusive platypus in the clear waters. Walk the Waterfalls Circuit to reach Millaa Millaa as well as Zillie and Ellinjaa Falls.
Jim Jim Falls
With so many forests, gorges, canyons and cliffs to discover, the Northern Territory is the perfect place to seek out some of the country’s most incredible waterfalls and waterholes. Jim Jim Falls are perhaps the region’s most famous. Set within Kakadu National Park, Jim Jim Falls – along with its sister waterfall, the nearby Twin Falls – are at their most powerful in the tropical summer months (November to March), but you can admire them via chopper or plane all year round with scenic flights offered by Kakadu Air, North Australian helicopters and The Scenic Flight Company. During the dry season (April to October), the pool at the base of Jim Jim Falls is open for swimming, though it's only accessible by 4WD. Hire a vehicle in Darwin or join one of the area's many 4WD tours, such as the three-day Kakadu 4WD tour from Kakadu Tours and Travel, on which you’ll see all the park's main attractions, including Jim Jim Falls, Twin Falls and Aboriginal rock art site, Ubirr Rock.
Litchfield National Park, just under an hour and a half from Darwin, is full of remote rock pools and waterfalls waiting to be uncovered. Florence Falls might be the park’s best-kept secret; its picturesque plunge pool is open almost all year round for swimming, and there are plenty of nearby walks that offer unique vantage points.
With over 200 known waterfalls to discover, Tasmania is the perfect place to go off the beaten track. The island’s most-photographed waterfall is Russell Falls, just over an hour west of Hobart, and it’s not hard to see why. By day, you’ll see the white water flow down the tiered rocks, and at night, you can spot the glow worms that call the nearby moss and leaves home. Although each glow worm is small, they collectively resemble a starry night sky.
The lesser-known Dip Falls, located three hours from Launceston by car, boast unique cubic basalt rock formations that create a remarkable sight. Like most waterfalls in Tasmania, they’re at their most powerful during the winter (June to August) and can be easy to overlook given their remote location. To reach the falls, go to the Dip Falls Reserve carpark. From here, it’s just a short walk to the platform that offers breathtaking views over the top of the falls. Take the trail leading down the steps to stand at the base of the falls and feel the mist drifting from the thundering water.
Another Tasmanian waterfall worth a visit is Nelson Falls, which drops 30 metres (98 feet) onto bright moss-covered rocks in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. You can reach the park, which makes up part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, via a three-hour drive from Hobart. Alternatively, hop on a wilderness cruise to enjoy the quiet rainforests from the water.
Victoria is known for its epic road trips and national parks, which are dotted with waterfalls and waterholes ready to dive into. Victoria’s Great Ocean Road is one of Australia’s greatest road trip destinations, home to fishing villages, shipwrecks, rainforests, rugged limestone spires and, of course, waterfalls. At the pretty seaside town of Lorne, you'll find Erskine Falls, which tumble 30 metres (98 feet) down a rocky face in a rainforest setting filled with ferns. While you're here, be sure to explore around Lorne, Victoria's answer to Byron Bay. With spas, surfing, arts, bushwalking, fashion and food, there’s something for everyone. If you have time, go fruit picking at Gentle Annie Berry Gardens, a 10-acre working farm nestled in Pennyroyal Valley.
If you’re headed to the Grampians National Park, located just over three hours from Melbourne, don’t miss Mackenzie Falls. One of the largest waterfalls in the state, Mackenzie Falls flows year-round, sending its water cascading down the cliffs into a deep pool. To reach the falls, take the one-kilometre (0.6 mile) path from the Mackenzie Falls carpark to the viewing platform, or continue onto the steep trail down to the base of the falls. A walk to the base takes about 30 minutes one way.
King George Falls
Western Australia's Kimberley region is home to some of the world's most isolated stretches of wilderness. Arguably among its most impressive sights are the 80-metre (262-foot) high cliff faces of the twin King George Falls, carved out by a billion years of rushing water. There's only one way to easily access them, and that's via an expedition cruise with one of the area's tour companies, departing from Broome. Several operators offer excellent cruising itineraries from eight to 14 days, including The Great Escape Charter Company, Kimberley Quest, Aurora Expeditions and Ponant. The North Star Cruises vessel, True North, has a helicopter on board.
One of the Kimberley’s most unusual natural attractions are the Horizontal Falls, where powerful currents squeeze through two narrow gorges and produce waterfalls tipped on their sides. Located in the far north of the state, the only way to reach these aquatic anomalies is by boat or plane. There are plenty of cruises and airplane tours to suit every budget and schedule, with half-day, full-day and overnight adventures available. KAS Helicopters and Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures will let you take in the spectacle from the sky, while Lady M Luxury Cruises and Go Horizontal Falls Tours allow you to experience the drama from the water. Many cruises even combine flying and boating experiences so you can see the falls from both breathtaking vantage points.
Also in the Kimberley region is Mitchell Falls. This massive, four-tiered waterfall is remote – an adventurous 500-kilometre (310-mile) drive north of Broome, and a four-kilometre (2.5-mile) hike through the bush from the Mitchell Falls campground. But diving into the dark green water is worth the trip. You can also take a helicopter flight here with several tour operators, which not only saves time but gives you an aerial view of the tumbling water.
Beyond waterfalls, Western Australia serves up more water holes than you could count. Take a two-day road trip from Perth to Karijini National Park, set in the heart of the state’s Pilbara region, to find Fern Pool - a picturesque swimming spot atop Fortescue Falls. Nearby, you can picnic overlooking the falls, or head to Circular Pool for a second swim.
New South Wales boasts deep gorges and dense rainforest falls, but you can also access amazing water holes right in Sydney. Located in the beachside suburb of Coogee, Giles Baths is a bogey hole, protected from the ocean swell by a natural rock break wall. It’s an idyllic place to take a dip in the ocean and even long enough to swim laps. At high tide, waves crash into the pool and make it difficult to swim without interference, but swap the goggles for a camera and you could be in for some dramatic photographs.
In the Royal National Park about 50 minutes by car from Sydney, you’ll find Wattamolla Beach, falls, and lagoon. Wattamolla is an Aboriginal word meaning “place near running water,” and the name certainly suits the splendid seven-metre (23-foot) Wattamolla Falls, which cascade from a rock ledge into the lagoon below. The tranquil waters of Wattamolla lagoon are calm and safe, making this an ideal place for families to spend the day. After a swim, relax in the shade of cabbage tree palms or go for a bush walk among the sea eagles and oystercatchers.
Figure Eight Pools
Another waterhole wonder within the Royal National Park is the Figure Eight Pools. Here, you’ll find perfectly circular rock pools carved by powerful ocean waves. The pools can be dangerous at high tide, so book your spot on a day tour from Sydney, which will also help you navigate the hike to and from the pools.
A two-hour drive from either Sydney or Canberra will bring you to a favourite waterfall in the Southern Highlands. Fitzroy Falls is one of the state’s grandest falls, dropping over 80 metres (262 feet). Head to the Fitzroy Falls Visitor Centre for information about wildlife and local Aboriginal culture before taking the short wheelchair-accessible boardwalk to the falls. Surrounded by the tranquil wilderness of the highlands, Fitzroy Falls offer plenty of opportunity for exploration nearby. The East Rim walking tracks take you past beautiful lookouts over the treetops, while the West Rim rewards you with gorges and streams.